SwRI deploys self-driving shuttle for campus tours

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The Southwest Research Institute’s 14-passenger automated shuttle is deployed at the company’s campus in San Antonio. | Source: SwRI

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has deployed an autonomous shuttle across its 1,500-acre campus. The shuttle can carry up to 14 passengers for campus tours, while collecting important information to help researchers better understand autonomous driving.

SwRI is a developer of software systems for autonomous vehicles and robotics. Its Ranger system is at work on the shuttle, helping it autonomously drive unique routes around campus. The Ranger system is a tracking tool that uses a ground-facing camera and automation software to maintain its position with an accuracy of up to 2cm.

“It’s rewarding for our engineers to take the best technology that SwRI has developed to serve our customers, and then integrate it into a demonstration vehicle that serves a practical purpose in our backyard,” said Ryan Lamm, director of the applied detection department of SwRI. .

SwRI’s shuttle is classified as a low-speed vehicle, which means it does not exceed 80 km/h. This makes it perfect for closed campuses. It uses a campus map with highlighted intersections, lanes, stop signs, and crosswalks. Routes are selected along the map by an operator.

While the shuttle drives itself, a human driver sits behind the wheel for added safety.

The shuttle’s artificial intelligence (AI) is capable of classifying traffic signs, pedestrians, vehicles and other objects. The shuttle can handle a variety of driving scenarios, including sharing the road with other vehicles, detecting dynamic objects like pedestrians and cyclists, and determining the right of way at an intersection.

While most of the functionality of the shuttles is in SwRI’s autonomy stack, the shuttle has additional capabilities, such as the ability to share data with intelligent transportation systems and other connected and automated vehicles.

The shuttle debuted earlier this month for San Antonio-area leaders attending a SwRI event. Participants had the opportunity to take a 10-minute shuttle tour of the campus.

“This mid-size passenger vehicle presents future opportunities for improving mobility and transportation access in neighborhoods where large buses cannot travel,” said Dan Rossiter, an SwRI engineer who helped organize the event. “We are thrilled to say that San Antonio not only has this capability at SwRI, but we are helping to develop and deploy similar systems around the world.”

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